Cline Zinfandel 2014

I was first introduced to the Cline family of wines by a friend.  He had grown up not too far from the winery and was a true hometown fan.  If I remember correctly, he insisted on sharing the Cline Conundrum white blend with me.  I wasn’t recording tasting notes back then – just experiencing everything I could.  Even so, it was evidently a good experience, because I continue to purchase and enjoy Cline wines.

Oenophilogical_ClineZinfandelLodi2014Winemaker: Cline
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Lodi, California
Price: $8.50 at Trader Joe’s

Notes: In the bouquet I found boisterous berry, violets, cedar, and hints of spice.  It was a dark, murky red with good acidity.  Medium-bodied with medium tannins, this Cline Zin was at 14% alcohol.  For me the flavors were dark cherry, piquant pepper, rubber, dried green herbs, and woody tannins.  I enjoyed the flavor of this wine, but the bouquet was just as rewarding as the taste.

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Big Churn Chardonnay 2014

My family has an interesting story about butter.  My grandfather grew up on a farm, and they did, indeed, churn their own butter.  One day when he was a young fellow, my grandfather and his siblings decided it would be fun to see who could eat the most butter in one sitting.  Can you believe it?  What seems to a level-headed adult a questionable pursuit at best was to my future grandfather a grand dare.  Until, of course, he had ingested as much of the butter as he could handle.  Unfortunately, all that buttery goodness at one time was truly too much of a good thing.  It left a lasting impression because, after that day, my grandfather never ate another pad of butter.  But my mother and her siblings came up with their own butter dare.  Just to tease my grandfather, they would sneakily pass the butter around the table during dinner until they managed to have it sitting right in front of him.  Once he noticed, of course, he would insist on it’s immediate removal from his close proximity.  Ah, kids!

Oenophilogical_BigChurnChardonnay2014Winemaker: Big Churn
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: California
Price: $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes: This inexpensive California white was light yellow with scents of lemon verbena and butterscotch on the nose.  Dry at 14.5% alcohol, the Big Churn was medium-bodied with what I would describe as perky acidity.  Flavors I tasted were lemon pudding, oak, hints of butterscotch and lingering grass.  With a name like Big Churn – not to mention the label art – you would expect a big buttery Chardonnay.  I don’t think it quite lived up to it’s moniker, but I thought it was still a respectable glass of white wine for the price.

Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel 2014

Here is another set of tasting notes from my archive which has heretofore not been posted on oenophilogical.com.  I haven’t checked the Trader Joe’s shelves to see what vintage my local store is carrying right now.  Even if it’s another year, this might give folks a sense of what has gone before.

Oenophilogical_OldMoon_OldVineZinfandel2014Winemaker: Old Moon
Wine: Old Vine Zinfandel
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: California
Price: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes: In the bouquet I caught whiffs of cherry, spice, moss and pine tar.  At 13.5% alcohol, this California Zin was a lovely ruby color in the glass.  I found it to be medium-bodied with high acidity and medium tannins that were quick on the attack.  The flavor profile I tasted included cherry, green herbs, a soupçon of pine tar, along with earth and leather notes.  The finish brought toasty oak and leather.  It wasn’t a particularly well integrated wine, but I felt it sufficient in structure and flavor to make it a bargain (not just cheap) at the price.

A Hungarian Merlot

Balatonboglár, Hungary is a resort town located roughly 90 miles southwest of Budapest on Lake Balaton.  Wikipedia says it’s also called the “town of grapes and wine” because it is the center of the Balatonboglár wine region which is one of six sub-sectors of the Balaton wine region around Lake Balaton.  While the greater Balaton wine region is best known for it’s Riesling, it clearly produces other varietal wines such as this Merlot.

Oenophilogical_StDonatusEstate_MerlotWinemaker: St. Donatus Estate (by Garamvári Vineyard)
Varietal: Merlot
Vintage: NV
Appellation: Balatonboglár, Hungary
Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

Notes: The color of the St. Donatus Merlot was quite dark.  It was medium-bodied with good acidity and almost no tannins at all.  Alcohol was at 12%.  Flavors were simple – sweet plum with touches of spice.  This wine was quite pleasant and easy to sip.  I think it’s a prime candidate for mulled wine or sangria.

Trentatre Rosso

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am going to be taking it slow these days. In other words, I won’t be tasting as many wines as I might otherwise. Luckily, I do have some notes left from prior experiences, so I think I’ll go ahead and publish those now as well. While the particular vintage may no longer be available, the wine producers will surely have something on store shelves currently for our consumption.  Here is one of those notes.

Winemaker: Trentatre
Varietal: Rosso (Red Blend)
Appellation: Salento IGT, Italy
Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

Notes: This lovely Italian reminded me of a Bordeaux. A blend of 33.3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33.3% Merlot, and 33.4% Montepulciano, this wine had a distinct purplish hue in the glass with a very present bouquet of forest floor (sous bois). It was on the cusp of medium-bodied with good acidity and gentle tannins. Alcohol was at 14%. Flavors I detected included brambly blackberry, leather and tea leaf. I think I see another bottle of the Trentatre in my future.

320px-castromarina

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find my photo of the bottle.  So instead the photo above is of a town (or more precisely a portion thereof) called Castro in the Apulia region – the area in southern Italy where this wine comes from.

Schloss Biebrich Sekt

oenophilogical_munichaugustinerkellerLast fall l had the chance to get a quick trip in to Germany and Switzerland.  It had to be quick due to necessary commitments, but it was a wonderful trip.

The first leg we spent in Munich.  We could have gone gallivanting about Germany because there is so much to see and do, but we decided to focus on beautiful München.  Why?  Well, in part because I had lived in Munich as a young man just out of college.  Thus, I wanted to take a good look around and see just how much had changed.  I also wanted to share some of the gems I’d discovered previously with my sweetie.

Staying in a hotel close to (but not right at) the Hauptbahnhof allowed us to utilize the outstanding public transportation system to go everywhere. oenophilogical_munich_nymphenburgerschloss Whether by subway, commuter rail, bus or streetcar, we were able to get to all our destinations.  Our hotel was also within easy striking distance of the Altstadt (old city) area that includes the famous Rathaus with it’s glockenspiel, Marienkirche and the many shops and restaurants lining the Fussgängerzone (pedestrian zone) that links Karlsplatz, Marienplatz and Odeonsplatz.  Yes, we heard and watched the glockenspiel.  We also packed in a visit to the Olympic Center, Olympic Tower and Olympic Village (and my old apartment which was within walking distance).  oenophilogical_munich_englishegarten2We saw the Nymphenburger Schloss with it’s fascinating history and beautiful gardens.  We pondered the amazing collection of art in the Alte Pinakothek museum, part of a group of museums where you could spend days – weeks, even – appreciating the art.  We took a stroll around the Englisher Garten and stopped for lunch at the Chinesischer Turm/Chinese Tower.  In fact, we had plenty of Bavarian food and beer, dropping in at the Augustiner Keller Beer Garden one evening and the Hofbräuhaus another.  And perhaps most enjoyably, we discovered a wonderful pub/restaurant a few blocks from our hotel in a quiet residential neighborhood that served, among other tasty things, Münchner Schnitzel.  This was my favorite dish when I lived in Munich!  I thought it had perhaps been the specialty of the local restaurant (no longer in existence) where I had first discovered it.  Imagine my elation to accidentally rediscover it and be able to share it as well.

With memories of our trip still dancing in my head, it was no surprise that I was drawn toward a German label when considering options for “bubbly” to help celebrate this past holiday season.

oenophilogical_schlossbiebrichsektWinemaker:  Schloss Biebrich
Varietal:  Sekt
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Germany
Price:  $5.49 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This effervescent wine was a “barely there” straw with a very apple-y nose which held some citrus notes.  It was light-bodied and had good acidity.  Alcohol was at 11%.  On the flavor side it held what the nose portended – sweet apple with a touch of citrus.  I know this is very inexpensive wine, but I was disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong: I will drink it again if someone hands me a glass.  On the other hand, I probably won’t be buying another bottle.

A Homespun Home-fun Xmas Eve

My sweetheart and I celebrated the holidays quietly at home this year.  Thus, we decided to make it a full-fledged staycation featuring plenty of food and time together.

oenophilogical_xmaseve16Our Xmas Eve celebration, then, began around noon with preparations for an early homestyle dinner – 5:00 ish.   Our kitchen is very small: we are not. Since we were sharing the responsibility for dishes, we had to work out a kitchen schedule.  What a fun challenge for us and a test of our collaborative skills.  I’m happy to say we passed the test!

The dinner was a simple one consisting of crab cakes (from our local Whole Foods seafood section), pearl couscous with mixed bell peppers, and a cucumber/radish salad.  It doesn’t seem that difficult at first blush till you factor in the substitutions we had to make (because we really are follow-the-recipe cooks) plus our “make ahead” work on dishes for Xmas Day dinner.  After much excitement, we finally got the meal on the table around 6:00 … maybe 6:30.  I confess the delay was mostly my fault.  With our meal we enjoyed a bottle of Vermentino from Trader Joe’s under the VINTJS  label.

After dinner, we finished watching the first season of “The Crown.”  This TV show is one of the best historical dramas I’ve ever seen.  If you like the genre, you should see it.  Sumptuous cinematography and solid performances across the board.

Then we put together a little snack tray of cheese, crackers, prosciutto, and nuts.  After all, we’d worked hard on the couch helping get Queen Elizabeth through the trials and tribulations of her early reign.  Next we turned out all the lights except the tree and sang our favorite Xmas carols.  And that was that!  Time to hit the hay and rest up for our Xmas Day festivities.

oenophilogical_vintjsvermintino2015Winemaker:  VINTJS
Varietal:  Vermentino
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price:  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  For me, this light white had a strong, zingy bouquet of citrus, peach and spice.  On the tongue I tasted orange, grass, and citrus zest.  It had a surprisingly long and pleasant finish as the orange lingered on the palate.  I liked this VINTJS Vermentino.  I was a little surprised that the piquancy of the bouquet didn’t translate fully to the tongue, but perhaps that’s just part of it’s character.